New Delhi: Are the students of the premier Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) ready for a second round of strikes, similar to the ones in 2015?
Protests at the FTII campus on Thursday, that apparently led to a lathi-charge by the police, indicates another round of strikes.
While the FTII students’ association hasn’t taken any decision on whether to go on strike or not, their agitation has drawn sharp criticism as “undemocratic, unethical and unjustified”.
The FTII students’ association, which has been opposing the government’s decision of appointing Gajendra Chauhan as the chairperson of the institute, is not ready to have any dialogue with the government, come what may.
Devas Dixit, an FTII final year student told Firstpost, "We don’t know how long it’ll take to resolve this issue. It’s not about the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan, but it’s about the procedure and existing system. We’ve been questioning why a particular political ideology should dominate the educational institutes in our country."
"We’ve made it clear that we won’t engage with the government officials on any dialogue, as all the previous ones have been futile. They don’t want to take any positive decision and want to stick with what they have decided," added Dixit.
When the newly appointed chairperson Chauhan wanted enter the campus on Thursday, after the FTII society’s meeting, he faced resistance as a large section of students stopped him at the campus gate.
The FTII campus has already witnessed a 139-day strike and relay hunger strikes in 2015, which were called-off in October 2015, without reaching a consensus.
The protests on Thursday and the alleged lathi-charge thereafter, by the police to disperse the students, led to a situation of uncertainty and an unending crisis.
"We were protesting Gajendra Chauhan’s entry into the campus by raising slogans, playing guitars and holding placards. But, the police resorted to lathi-charge on us. It was unprovoked violence by the police and it manhandled even girl students. We were forcefully evicted from our campus. The police detained 26 students, who were later released. We won’t bow down to this political high handedness. We don’t want Gajendra Chauhan as FTII chairperson. We’re not going on strike at present, but the protest will continue. The final decision will be taken by the larger community," Shardul Bhardwaj, a second year student of acting course at FTII who claimed to have been a victim of police high handedness, told Firstpost.
Unlike last year, classes have resumed as a section of students want to get back to studies.
"Due to the strike, we’ve lost several man-hours and a major portion of our curriculum has remained incomplete. The protest may go on, but we want to complete our course within the stipulated period. There’s lot of pressure,” another FTII student, who was a part of the previous strike, said on condition of anonymity.
Prof MD Nalpat, director, Geopolitics & International Relations, Manipal University remarked, "Prime Minister Narendra Modi is held to a higher standard than other politicians. His team can do better than Gajendra Chauhan, who needs to be replaced.”
However, the government is silent on the issue and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) has made no official statement on the latest agitation.
With neither party relenting, the situation raises questions over how students can continue opposing the government’s decision while enjoying a world-class education facility at government expense and waste tax-payers’ money.
A ministry official on condition of anonymity said, “The ministry will take the final call. But, the issue that the students are raising, that questions the government’s decision, is ridiculous and baseless. FTII is a government-funded institute and the students want that the government shouldn’t take decision of its own. How is it possible?"
In a written reply in the Lok Sabha, the I&B minister Arun Jaitley had said, "The government has borne approximately 94 percent cost per student at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) for the academic year 2014-15. Under the Twelfth Five Year Plan, a sum of Rs 80 crore has been allotted for upgradation of FTII."
Prof Rakesh Sinha, honourary director, India Policy Foundation said, "The act of these FTII students is a classic example of orthodox rigidity. It’s dangerous for democracy as they are neither ready for a healthy dialogue nor let the chairperson work."
"There may be more capable candidates than Gajendra Chauhan but if the government has appointed him, he should be given a fair chance to prove his mettle. How can the ability of Gajendra Chauhan be judged without giving him an opportunity to work? It’s like a judge pronouncing a verdict even before a case is filed in the court. After the long strike, now this fresh protest that took place yesterday by a section of students on the campus is unethical, undemocratic and unjustified," Sinha said.